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Colorado Says Pot Shops Are Better at Stopping Underage Sales Than Liquor Stores

A whopping 95% of Centennial State dispensaries stopped undercover minors from buying marijuana, but officials still want to fix the few remaining mistakes.

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Photo via iStock/ scott_craig

Colorado cannabis regulators released their annual industry compliance report late last week, and found that Centennial State pot shop employees performed better than both liquor and tobacco sellers when it came to preventing underage sales.

According to Denver’s CBS affiliate, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division’s (MED) 2017 report details the use of undercover minors in 264 pot shop compliance checks last year. Out of those dispensaries, only 13 made a sale to an underage operative. In total, 95% of cannabis shops passed the latest test, up one point from 2016’s 94% compliance rate.

“While we’re pleased that the percentage of licensees passing underage compliance checks increased from 2016, that number still isn’t good enough,” MED Director Jim Burack told CBS4. “We’ll continue to increase the frequency of our enforcement efforts and further educate marijuana licensees on their operational requirements vital to protecting public health and safety.”

Because America’s cannabis industry is still very much in its infantile stage, the idea of underage Coloradans being able to walk into a pot shop to buy the controversial plant is concerning to authorities, but when compared to purveyors of other legal intoxicants, Centennial State pot shops are the strictest age-limit enforcers. As noted by CBS4, 11% of Colorado liquor stores and 6% of tobacco sellers failed last year’s underage compliance checks.

As the green rush grows, preventing underage retail sales has become a regulatory focus across the legal weed landscape. In Oregon, a 20% failure rate for ID checks in late 2017 immediately inspired state officials to increase age-based negligence penalties from a 10-day license suspension and $1,650 fine to a 30-day sales ban and nearly $5,000 in penalties.

For Colorado dispensaries, the consequences for doling out doja to minors is similarly harsh, including total loss of a marijuana sales license and even jail time.

“The risks for non-compliance are significant,” Kristi Kelly, a member of the Marijuana Industry Group, told CBS4. “It’s no surprise that the legal licensees and employees in this state place a priority on making sure that legal cannabis stays in the hands of legal buyers.”